As highlighted in a previous post – Hiring salespeople is hard for a few reasons:
- Even mediocre salespeople are really good at selling themselves
- Salespeople are a product of their environment – just because they were effective at selling software for X company with all of the resources that X company provided, doesn’t mean they will be effective in your startup environment
- Great salespeople are always in demand
- Great salespeople that are successful and making good money have a really hard time leaving those jobs
To select top performing sales people, I follow this 7-step process:
- Pre-screen survey
- Phone screen
- Resume review interview (in person)
- Behavioral based interview (in person)
- Shadow / ride-day
- In-depth reference check & background check
- Job fit/personality assessment
1. Pre-screen survey
None of us have time to review every applicant that applies. If you’ve got proper exposure to your job and you’ve done an effective job of “selling” the opportunity, you are going to get ample candidates. Use a short survey to weed out the folks that are definitely not going to be a fit. I use about 10 t/f questions that are scored so that I can stack rank my applicants and spend time reviewing folks that have a better fit potential.
2. Phone screen
Quick, direct, to the point, 10 – 15 minutes. Purpose of this is to understand if it warrants an in-person sit down with the candidate. What do they want to do. What type of company do they want to work with. What have they done in the past that would lend them to be successful at your company. What is their compensation expectation. Give some further color to the role and the organization. Find a way to put scored factors down and give them a grade vs. pure gut feel.
3. Resume review interview (in person)
Purpose here is to dive into their past experience. Review each role, successes, failures, how they ranked with the team, why they left, etc. Alway preface the conversation with, “we do in-depth reference checks and always talk to managers of past roles – just wanted to make you aware of that.” This way you know you are getting an accurate story.
If you are impressed = SELL THEM
4. Behavioral based interview (in person)
Tell me about a time when… Give me an example of… Have them tell you stories about past experiences. This conversation will help you better understand how this person reacts to certain situations and how they will react in your environment.
If you are impressed = SELL THEM
5. Shadow / ride-day
An often overlooked and extremely critical step. Put them in your environment and have them sell for you. Our inside sales candidates spend a half hour on the phone calling real prospects. We give them a list to dial and a script to use. I’m looking to see 1. if they seem hesitant to start dialing and 2. how do they sound on the phone.
If you are impressed = SELL
6. In-depth reference check & background check
We use an automated online tool for reference checks called Skill Survey. If you’ve got to pick up the phone and call manually so be it. Don’t make the hire unless you get feedback from all of their past managers.
7. Job fit/personality assessment
Just do it. We use Caliper. Don’t trust just what they are telling you. Match the results of an assessment to what you heard in the interview. They should match up and tell the same story.
Other points to note:
*Get multiple people involved
*Stick to the process
*Hire fast – run this process efficiently and speed up if needed – don’t sway from the steps however
*Use data/objectiveness as much as possible
*Request past W2’s to understand what they made – especially for experienced AE hires
*Get a system of record to track the process – I’d recommend Hireology😉
*Hire ahead of plan – plan for some turnover and hire before you need them
The odds are heavily stacked against us when scaling a startup. Getting the right people on the bus is the first step.